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tv   The Communicators  CSPAN  August 30, 2014 6:30pm-7:01pm EDT

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taylor, who joins us from our new york studio. abouts book, you write openness and you say that new-media thinkers have claimed openness as an appropriate utopian ideal for our time and the concept has caught on. does that apply to the internet as well? >> that is exactly what i'm asking. it seemed like the internet was going to magically solve all the problems of the old media, and for me, i am independent. my background is in documentary filmmaking. i make films about philosophies. kind of obscure educational films. these films were not on television, they were not on commercial media. the internet seemed to be
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something that would usher in this amazing opportunity for independent filmmakers like me and independent artists and to createand bloggers an open media landscape, to not depend on gatekeepers who could and influence the flow of communication. the idea is that the internet is open, and all the problems of the old system have gone away. i was very interested in this question. the book is me investigating it, how open is the internet, is openness enough. i have come to the conclusion that open is a misleading term. it can mean anything to anyone. it is very ambiguous. it is not necessarily mean equal. the media system that is emerging online is not necessarily more egalitarian or inviting in the system that preceded it. a lot of the old problems have carried over.
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that is what i am especially interested in. >> when the internet came online, was it supposed to be an open, a gala terry and platform? >> it was kind of invented in this ad hoc way. way for existing computer networks to internet work and communicate with each other. academicnd of an experiment that was partly funded by the government. the internet wasn't necessarily supposed to be what it has become. the excitement and rhetoric of it being this a gala terry and system-- egalitarian corresponded with it mainstreaming and becoming something that lots of people use. that idea really picked up on social media. it was clear that users to notis opportunity only read or watch content on the internet, but also to contribute and post their own
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pictures and their own ideas and their own opinions. the internet did emerge out of this public spirited, academic community. as it spread, we have created this mythology around it. we are at an interesting tipping point. right now we are seeing there could be a darker side, there could be some problems if we don't intervene and try to protect the qualities that we find so appealing about it. what i'm alluding to is revelations about surveillance or invasion of privacy or the fact that there are now these giant multinational corporations, google and facebook and amazon, that are engaging in business practices that are not that different from who area companies
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finally being investigated and challenged. it is an interesting moment where people are becoming a bit more critical of this technology that they were extremely optimistic about only a few years ago. >> i want to read two quotes from that book. "instead of leveling the field between small and large, the open internet has dramatically tilted it in favor of the most massive players. people are beginning to recognize that silicon valley [indiscernible] about changing the world and maxims like, don't be evil, are not enough to ensure that some of the biggest corporations on earth will behave well." yeah, i think there's a paradox at the heart of our new media landscape. it is the paradox that voted meet -- motivated me to write this book. engagingperience with
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with media becomes ever more personalized -- we have our own with access to an unimaginable amount of filesation, and we have that fit our preferences and our favorite app. personalization goes deeper than just what we have chosen to put on our devices, but in fact personalizeices their algorithms by tracking us and catering to our tastes. we have this intentionally -- intensely personalized experience. this enormous, centralized system is very opaque. these data centers that are ultimately making everything run.
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we talk about the cloud, which is ethereal, but there are these massive server farms and a handful of companies that control a lot of the web hosting. even the cia contracts its web hosting to amazon and companies like netflix and pinterest do. it's very centralized on the back end. the agentske we are of deciding. we're in charge of our own media destiny with the internet. these maybe not gatekeepers per se, but there channels that we are shunted down because they are unavoidable. you have to use google if you want to find other things on the internet. that contradiction is important. as these companies become more complex and woven into the fabric of our daily lives, they
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do a mass an enormous amount of power. ourselves what their responsibilities are. we give them so much of ourselves and we trust him was so much of our private data. what is their public responsibility. >> where does the public interest lie when so much of the internet is in [indiscernible] hands? >> a good example is this incident from last week where news that heased was conducting -- it had conducted an experiment in january of 2012 wherefore a week it segmented about 700,000 facebook users and did a controlled experiment where it poststher sad or happy from users to see the way that would affect what those users
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then posted. it manipulated the news feed to see if there would be an emotional contagion. there was an enormous public outcry because people obviously felt that facebook was treating them as [indiscernible] and this is very worrisome. what was unusual about the incident was that facebook wrote up the results and proudly announce them to the world with a press release and thought people would be excited about it. they were responding to news that was going around in 2011 and 2012 that facebook was making people sad because they were comparing themselves with their friends. they thought they would do this experiment to show, if there is happy news you become happy. people felt simply manipulated and creeped out. that shows that these are not theyal platforms, in that are very powerfully shaped by the people behind them and the
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decisions people are making are not clear or transparent to ultimatelythat facebook does tweak its news feed and the algorithms that determine what we see because it has to create an environment that is conducive to its business model, touches advertising. we don't pay money to use it. we pay with our data, which is useful to the advertisers who are facebook awesome ultimate ultimate -- facebook's asteroids. the responsibility of facebook -- it presents itself as a channel for us to communicate with our friends or with organizations or even companies that we like, and yet it is at the same time not a neutral channel and it has its own bottom lines that it has to serve. ultimately needs to
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be even regulated in such a way that there is some aspect of transparency, there's some because it'srity, not enough that we see little ads on the side of the screen and we say, we know they are advertisements because there's other sort of tweaking and manipulating happening layers down that are completely invisible to users, but that could ultimately impact society in big ways. not just affect the users' moods, but there was an experiment in 2010 that showed facebook could have consequences on voter turnout, when elections have been decided with a few hundred voters in the past with bush winning the election, this is very significant. researchers determined they had 300,000 facebook users to actually vote by doing a massive experiment with tens
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of millions of facebook users. this is an incredible power. , and iot always visible think the public does have an interest in there being some transparency and some limits of what the companies can do with these channels. >> many structures of the old media system, you write, however flawed, relieve some of the burdens now borne solely by individuals. institutions provide capital, legal protection, leverage, and continuity, facilitating the transmission of knowledge and skills from one generation to the next. at their best, institutions can help support challenging efforts through a process called risk aggregation. yeah, this is an interesting argument for me to make because my identity is very much as an independent filmmaker and outsider, doing something i felt
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the existing institutions were not doing. mewas quite a challenge for as i was following this debate about the internet, looking at what was happening to institutions of journalism were looking at what was happening to the publishing industry and going, maybe there is a productive, necessary role for these cultural institutions to play in a democratic society. i think we have all heard the initial myths of the internet, the fact that there would be [indiscernible] basically, the middlemen would and whether we are talking filmmakers, musicians, would be able to go direct and find their audience. appealing,ery democratic, seemingly straightforward vision. what i'm pointing out is that it really has not come to pass. there's this new wave of that -- yes, there
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the challenge to publishing industry through amazon, but amazon is a powerful middleman. we have to contend with that. i also wanted to ask, what is it we want of our institutions? if we are so critical of them, if we feel that the mainstream media and journalism have and that we us would rather put our faith in an my questionblogger, is -- why don't we think about ways to make the practice of journalism more ideal, more what we want it to be, more accountable, more diverse, more ofe to do the important work challenging the powers that be, and not being beholden to them. you have to do that by finding institutions,hese
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giving people who practice these creative forums this space to actually do that work. it's very easy to get caught up in this idea that individuals can just do it on their own, now that we have the internet we can kind of pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and go and go to city hall and report and tweet out the results, but i talked to many journalists and many bloggers, and one thing i talked to -- for example, one established reporter in baltimore said, that is a wonderful vision but i have been to city hall every day for years and there are never any bloggers there. somehow, we need to find a way to make this work, sustainable for people, and the internet cannot magically do it for us. >> how does it happen in? >> -- then? >> the problem is that many of
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the problems with the business model of the legacy media -- actually, it has not been altered at all with the development of these new communication channels. that is one very obvious point that is not being made very often in these conversations. yes, we have new tools, but the model of funding things has not changed at all. to go back to that term, disintermediation -- journalism is in a. transformationof because you no longer need to go to the classifieds good you can get these things separately. you can go to crosswordpuzzles.com on the internet. that for whatever
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new online startups there are online, the models of finding them is still advertising. digital advertising, which brings in quite a bit less revenue than traditional print advertising, but it is advertising nonetheless. advertisers have been really empowered by the move to the digital sphere in what is called convergence, the fact that these formerly distinct areas of life are now online. you go online to watch her movies and read your books and to your crossword puzzles and talk on the telephone. advertisers can attract you through all these different realms of your daily practice. ,hey can collect data from you and are very empowered compared to the old days when they depended on the newspaperman so they could reach an audience. i think we have to imagine first and foremost alternatives to the
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advertising model, and that is something that has not been widely discussed. there is some enthusiasm for crowd funding, kickstarter and that, but discussions of things like public financing or having some sort of public interest demand on these giant tech corporations are things that have been out of the public doversation, and one thing i in the book is remind people that at the onset of television, there was a public outcry when there was a tipping point when people realize that advertisers were controlling too much of the media. people realized quiz shows were rigged. thatitizens got disgusted the news hour was sponsored by camel cigarettes, and that soap operas sold soap. we might be reaching a similar moment online, when we need to
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think about carving out space for something that is not totally handed over to the ,dvertiser funding model because that is what is supporting so many of the services and platforms and so much of the content that we consume in that space. >> one of the things you write is that the public good is increasingly financed by private money. support moving the internet under title two? >> to reclassify it. >> right. >> definitely. this is the issue of net neutrality. captured theally public's imagination for a good reason. internet service providers should not be able to charge for , whichrnet fast lane
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essentially means discriminating against smaller sites or sites of individuals or smaller businesses or startups or nonprofits in favor of big companies that can pay for faster service. perhaps the only way of really solving this problem at the root the internet as a telecommunications service, which means it could be orulated as a public utility treated as common carriage, which is how we treat landline telephones. ultimately has to offer service to everybody at fair rates, and is not in the business of discriminating. i think that would be an extremely intelligent first step if we want to maintain some of and trulyful democratizing aspects of the internet that we have come to just take for granted.
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it is not the radical step that some people -- when they say it is regulating the internet, it is actually about access to the internet and the people who can't control the on ramps to the internet -- can control the on ramps to the internet. there are two big cable companies that might be merging, time warner and comcast am a that a lot of us depend on to , and they internet should have to allow us to access the sites we want and to not be able to pick winners and losers. that is a reasonable and minimum for protecting the people's platform aspect of the internet as we know it. book, you are critical of google books as well. why? what i'm trying to do in that
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section at the end when i talk about google books is to say invoke theseto analogies, and so we like to talk about google books as a universal library, and that is language that representatives of and i quote,ur flickrfrom the site saying that they are stewards creating space for people to share their photographs. whenever there are social we sawts, especially -- the people in the middle east, and twitter was referred to as this town square. is the wayoking at that these metaphors -- library, town square, land trust -- they
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are public spirited. they are civic minded. yet ultimately we are entrusting those duties to these private corporations. ultimately, in the end, google is not a library. google is an advertising business. of 96% of itss revenue from advertisers. really would like to challenge people, if we want the library, if we want this digital, universal library, if we want something that protects knowledge and is there for us to learn and to remember our history, and to engage as citizens, then i think we have thateate some structures will explicitly support those in instead of trusting that important role to these private corporations that are rife -- they are there to serve their shareholders and to generate
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profits, and they have their responsibilities. they have their fiduciary responsibilities as corporations , and they are not the library of congress. has a lot of utilities, but ultimately it can be shut down at any moment if it's not profitable enough. the library of congress doesn't get shut down if it is not turning up a prophet. it is interesting to me that we use these analogies and yet we have not really figured out how to bolster them, and how to take and to the next level really create these things we seem to want the internet to be. >right now it ing mall than a tn square. i want to ask is, how do we make a digital town square. >> you write about some of these companies. enterprises,ercial designed to maximize revenue, not defend political expression,
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preserve our collective heritage, or facilitate creativity, and the people who work there are private employees, not public servants. something else you write is that in order to find this world that you are looking for, other options would be to demand the radio and television broadcasters pay the market rate .or spectrum licenses >> right. that thethis idea toolkits of the pre-internet age , like the idea of public ,roadcasting and public media or the idea of grants to fund endowmentthe national for the arts, all these things seem like they are obsolete
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because we live in a digital age. is somehowt technologically and socially beyond regulation and exists on its own, or something like that. i go through the basic examples -- there are a lot -- public subsidy still exists. the system we have today is still dependent on public subsidies. the public is not reaping the rewards. the rewards are disproportionately going into private hands. we give away an enormous amount of our public spectrum to broadcasters, traditional broadcasters, but then also to wireless companies who pay arguably less than the market rate. it is a complicated issue.
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should there be more robust demands for public service requirements or some sort of exchange? there are subsidies for broadband. there are subsidies through copyright, which has been extended and extended and extended long beyond what the sort of founders intended. there is an argument to be made that once you are extending copyright for decades and the government granting these corporations a monopoly on something and it is a subsidy. there are plenty of examples. we need to sort of take them all way account and look at the that the public is not reaping the rewards, and meanwhile we , journalism is in
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crisis and there's no money in advertising is the only rational way to do things. i'm trying to challenge the underpinning, the economic logic that we take for granted and to show that there's lots of money flowing behind the scenes, and there are other ways we can organize the entire system and there are precedents for it. past are precedents in our and there are precedents if we look at other countries that are doing things in different ways. >> aster taylor, what is your background? i have a note here that you were unschooled until you were 13 years old. >> i was. i was unschooled in athens, georgia. unschooling is a radical version of homeschooling where the idea is that human beings are naturally curious and if left to their own devices, they will find out what they are interested in and do their own
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thing. when i was 13, i decided i and seery public school how everybody else did it, and it was quite a cultural shock. did it?ou glad you >> i'm glad i did it. it was a real education, maybe not of the kind we think of as a ,onventional school education but certainly expanded my horizons. you can see the aftereffects of in thisschooled project. for me, school was this institution that we would imagine could be different. it was not taken for granted and just something that we had to go to. you can see that in this book and in my reflections on our entire media system. why do things have to be organized this way? why do we just have to accept
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that things are inevitably going in one direction, when these are man-made institutions and as such, we can change them into something better. "there is the book, people's platform, taking back power and culture in the digital age." astor taylor is the author. >> c-span, created by america's cable companies 35 years to go and brought you as a public service by your local cable percent like provider. tonight on c-span, at 9:30 eastern, former president jimmy carter spoke today at the islamic society of north america's annual convention in detroit. onore it at 8:00, a debate scotland's independence from u.k. hour, a look at corporate tax laws and their effect on revenue and jobs.
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it is a recent discussion hosted by the cato institute in washington dc. >> thank you all for coming. my name is john. i am the director of congressional affairs at the cato institute and it is a topic that has appeared frequently in the news. corporate inversions, which are financial reorganizations which put a few firms under a foreign parent corporation. if you have been following the news, you can see that burger king is the latest example of corporations who decided to do this. they will be reorganizing in canada and they are not doing this because they like the fact that canada still has a picture of the queen on the currency. they are doing it because our republic, which got its independence through a tax revolt, has the highest corporatxe

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